What is WEBAR? A Handbook on Web Based Augmented Reality

When it comes to Augmented Reality, many individuals utilize this technology through mobile apps — which are not necessarily needed when it comes to all AR projects. Obviously, app integration is extremely important and, as noted, the primary way that people use AR. 

However, the emergence of WebAR has enabled users to deploy AR content without having to download an app. Smartphones have varying amounts of storage that will only allow a phone to keep a limited amount of applications — eventually, after downloading enough apps, taking enough videos and pictures, and saving enough of our favorite songs, we have to pick and choose which apps we download onto our phone.

There’s also the added issue that users might not want to allow a business or organization to have access to their phone and personal information, in which scenarios WebAR (web-based augmented reality) truly shines.

Everyone Has an App

If you’ve been thinking that you might have too many apps on your phone, you’re not alone. Maybe you’re annoyed at your dry cleaning place because they just made you download an app in order to get those nice dress clothes freshly pressed. 

As of mid-2020 there were nearly 3 million apps available for users to download — and this was only in the Google Play store for Android users. There are also over 4 million apps in the Apple Store

It’s important to note that 90% of the time that users are on the internet is spent using one app or another, but does that mean that apps are awesome or that people often don’t have a choice?

Take LinkedIn, for example. They try to get their users to download their app. If you’re using the desktop/web version on your phone, you will likely not be able to take advantage of certain features available on the app itself, and you’ll always have to decline their offer to download their app. It’s annoying, to be certain. Users might not want that sort of access to LinkedIn. Many users might be saying to themselves “Can I just access this when I’m on the computer like a normal person?”

In such instances WebAR is extremely useful and a testament to the evolution of augmented reality as a whole.

What is WEBAR? A Handbook on Web Based Augmented Reality

More on Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality (not to be confused with Virtual Reality) aims to allow the user to see their real life environment while digital elements are overlaid on it that they can manipulate and interact with.

Remember Pokemon Go? That game is actually the most popular and widely known example of AR technology. Players were able to bring their Pokemon experience into their real lives. Players could locate and capture Pokemon characters that would “surface” in cities, towns, rural areas, even in bathrooms!

Sure, AR technology is being used by the video game industry to amazing results. But AR is also being used by just about every other industry under the sun. The medical industry, for example, has utilized AR technology to help explore and provide visual representation of what is going on inside of the body. Surgeons and medical students use AR to help them provide better procedures and treatments to patients.

Marketers and brands are using AR technology in order to help consumers view and interact with potential products from the comfort of their home. Online gambling sites are developing ways to create an at-home Vegas-style experience with VR and AR.

WebAR: The Next Logical Progression

At its core, WebAR ends up performing in the same exact way as app-based augmented reality. WebAR provides an immersive experience through blending the virtual world with the physical world — the only difference is in how content is accessed by the user. In lieu of an app, users can use AR through a special web page. 

It’s important to note that WebAR will require a user to get to a uniquely specific web page in order to engage with the technology. Companies have to invest significantly in creating a user-friendly experience and maintaining a healthy website.

What is WEBAR? A Handbook on Web Based Augmented Reality

WebAR Benefits and Applications

Users can access WebAR content by scanning a QR code using a smartphone camera. By pointing your device camera to the QR code you will get direct access to an applicable AR experience. 

Advertisers are particularly interested in WebAR due to the fact that brands can custom-tailor campaigns around WebAR content — paid advertising can reach preferred audiences and even extend beyond their normal following through social media. Users can click a link and be taken directly to an AR experience rather than having to take the time to download an app in order to engage with the content.

WebAR also allows users to provide call to actions on existing websites in order to redirect to WebAR content. Organizations can create a new web page or easily integrate WebAR into an already existing site.

On the user side, WebAR content users can easily type in a web address by hand in order to gain access to content. It’s important to make sure that domain names are simple and easily-remembered, so users can simply type it into their browser.

WebAR content is accomplished via:

  • Real World Tracking
  • Face Tracking
  • Image Tracking
What is WEBAR? A Handbook on Web Based Augmented Reality

Smartphone cameras can now digitize an environment so that virtual content can be layered over that. Face tracking enables users to more closely engage with brands, not to mention gives AR technology the opportunity to recognize facial expressions in order to create a variety of prompts. Image tracking allows automation to come into the mix, helping users choose certain reference points (like signs, billboards, logos, etc.) that will automatically initiate a WebAR experience.

For instance, a cereal box might provide a QR code where users can scan over the box with their phone and the brand mascot can interact with them as they enjoy breakfast.

Why WebAR is Significant

As noted above, limitations of app-based AR is that there is only a limited amount of space on any given phone. Phones also experience choppy download speeds while running on data, which can seriously compromise a virtual experience. 

WebAR makes it easy to simply tap-and-go, giving brands the opportunity to not only give more options to consumers but to also be an integral part in introducing this amazing technology to first-time users. 

Oh yeah, there’s also the additional benefits that web pages have the ability to provide analytics. Sure, certain apps might be able to provide analytics, but WebAR sets itself apart by gathering specific pieces of data, not to mention providing analytics about how users interact with a specific AR experience. WebAR is easily integrated with all of the traditional metrics — ways of measuring engagement like clicks, time spent on a specific page, and even deep-dive insights narrowing all the way down to how long a specific user actually used the WebAR content/experience.

Did we mention that building an app is expensive, too? If your business or organization doesn’t have a need for an app, WebAR is an excellent opportunity to stay on the cutting edge while avoiding spending revenue on app development, not to mention saving time that would surely be spent on managing problems and issues that will ultimately arise, especially during initial rollout.

WebAR Limitations

Although it might be true that the best AR experiences might happen within an app (where there’s more memory to use and therefore more complex graphics/animation), WebAR is still an affordable and effective alternative to launching a full-scale app-based AR project. Users might have minor gripes about lower resolution when it comes to WebAR content, but brands will be able to get their message across and guide users through their respective sales funnels.

As a general rule, brands that incorporate WebAR into their marketing strategies might want to opt to keep projects as simple as possible, that way the user has a seamless experience.

WebAR Moving Forward

In conclusion, WebAR represents a super flexible option for brands and businesses to deploy AR technology, which helps provide a new level of education, interaction, and engagement.

What is WEBAR? A Handbook on Web Based Augmented Reality

WebAR still offers a wide variety of customization options as well as easy integration — it can easily be added to existing toolboxes as a result. AR technology will continue to evolve, ultimately aiming to incorporate all of the senses in order to craft a truly immersive and convincing virtual experience. More and more complex procedures will be incorporated into a users at-home and online experience, which is especially beneficial to those who are on the go or trying to limit foot traffic. It will be incredibly interesting to see what realms WebAR technology and AR technology as a whole extend into as the future and the technology itself progresses.